'Nebraska' Is Unique, One Of The Best In Years

Jan 9, 2014

Bruce Dern and Will Forte in 'Nebraska'
Credit rottentomatoes.com

Nebraska is a terrific movie, and not just because of Bruce Dern's Oscar-worthy performance, which is unlike anything I've ever seen before.

For one other thing, Nebraska is in widescreen black and white, which seems peculiar but brings out the bleak beauty of America's flatlands, with screen-wide horizons punctuated with occasional trees or buildings looking as lonely and forlorn as the society the movie depicts.

That society is such as makes Winter's Bone look like a cultural center-- the state of Nebraska ought to sue for libel, except that there is warm, rich humor in the shots of blank-faced citizens staring expressionless at unseen television sets and communicating only by occasional ten-word sentences about cars. It's too exaggerated to look like an attempt to depict reality, and too funny to be offensive.

And Bruce Dern is the most extreme figure of all, except that he does seem real. He's an aggravating old coot, so used up by age and alcohol that he can hardly function, all but lifeless except for his obsession with the letter that tells him he has won the sweepstakes and can get his winnings if he can get from Montana to Omaha and pick them up. And he's going to get there if he has to walk, which he can hardly do at all. He's so worn down that he hardly shows emotions, but Dern somehow conveys a certain dignity that almost makes you root for him.

And watch June Squibb make Dern's wife into a classic bit of comic acting that grows on you as the facts of her life develop.

Nebraska is unlike any other movie, and one of the best in years.